Welcome to “Ask an RV Expert,” the advice column where RVillage experts answer your questions about common RV maintenance problems.
Have a question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we might answer it in a future column.
Dear RVillage Expert: We live in the panhandle of Nebraska, and the summers are hot here! Any way to keep RV decals from fading? —Robert M.
Like RVs, no RV decal is the same–which means there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to keep your decals from fading, peeling, and aging. Gel coats, vinyl materials, epoxy, paint colors, and even the building material of your rig all play a factor in how your decals will age over time—and how they’ll react to different polishes and protectants. For example: While wax might be the best solution for some decal materials, it can cause others to dry out and peel.
The good news?
There are several general steps you can take to help protect your decals, no matter what your rig or decals are made of. Here are a few ways you can keep your decals protected and preserved.
Park in the shade. While this might not always be an option at the campground, you should do your best to keep your RV in shaded areas, especially during the sunniest hours of the day. UV rays can be extremely harmful to your decals, so the less sun, the better for your RV. Even keeping awnings extending during the heat of the day can protect your exterior.
Avoid high water pressure. It’s always good to give your rig a rinse, but if the water pressure is too strong, you might be wearing down your decals and causing premature chipping and aging. Steer clear of high-pressure power washers and hoses when it’s bath time for your RV, and use gentle water pressure like you would protect the paint on your car.
Watch for branches. While branches can cause all sorts of problems for RV roofs, you shouldn’t forget about checking your decals if you’ve come in close contact with a tree. Even if your roof is in the clear of a low branch, that doesn’t mean your sides can always avoid impact. Branches can cause irreversible damage to your decals, so play it safe when there are trees on your route.
Invest in a cover. Whether your rig is being stored for the season or you’re just putting it away for the week, covering your RV when it’s not in use can help protect your decals from the elements. A cover that’s waterproof and UV-resistant can add years to your decals if you regularly cover your rig. This might not be the most convenient option, but it’s a proactive solution that can save you money and hassle down the road.
How to Measure, Choose, and Purchase a Cover for Your RV
Keep it clean. Too much water pressure is a bad thing, but that doesn’t mean you should let your RV stay dirty. Keeping up with regular maintenance helps preserve your decals and keeps dirt from getting underneath the edges. But be sure to use washes and polishes that are RV-friendly. Everyday cleaning products and automobile waxes can be too harsh for RVs. If you have a cleaner or wax in question, ask a service technician before using it on your rig.
Dear RVillage Expert: I want to keep my roof in good shape without having to bring it into a service center. What DIY maintenance can I do at home? —Leonard S.
The first step to RV roof maintenance is knowing what kind of roof you have. Most likely it’s going to be rubber (TPO or EPDM) or fiberglass. Aluminum is also a possibility, though it’s not as common. While most RV roof maintenance and cleaning products apply to both types of roofing, there can be a few differences in the products that you should consider before buying.
The best thing about your roof is that outside of major repairs, most maintenance is do-it-yourself as long as you stay stocked with a couple of key products like cleaners, sealants, roof patches, and caulk. Keep these items in your rig, especially when you’re out on the road, so you can stay on top of roof upkeep and not let leaks and cracks worsen by waiting to repair them until you get home.
Now it’s time to grab your ladder and climb to the top of your rig for a little maintenance and cleaning.
Inspect regularly. Don’t let an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality apply to your RV roof. Regular inspections, especially before and after every trip, can help catch minor issues before they turn into costly problems. Always check around vents, appliances (A/C, antennas, solar panels), and along the edges of your roof for cracked seals and joints.
Clean often. The best thing you can do for your rig’s roof is to clean it regularly. Removing dirt, tree sap, mildew, and other debris from your roof will ensure it stays in top condition. Use a medium-bristled scrub brush and non-abrasive cleaners, like Bio-Kleen or Roof Armor that are made specifically for RVs and are petroleum-free.
Make repairs. Patching holes, caulking, and sealing are the most common types of repairs you’ll need to make to your RV roof. Although it can sound intimidating, there are plenty of products on the market that make these tasks easy. Brands like Alpha Systems offer sealants, tapes, adhesive, and even full roofing kits for both rubber and fiberglass RV roofs. With a caulking gun and roller, you can handle a multitude of roofing repairs without the need to take your rig to a service center.
Stay protected. While it’s not always possible, protect your roof from sun exposure and harsh weather conditions to help prolong its life and reduce maintenance needs. Covering your rig when it’s not in use can be a great solution, but be sure to buy a waterproof cover that provides adequate airflow so locked in moisture doesn’t create mold and mildew.
Dear RVillage Expert: Our RV awning is looking pretty grimy and it’s making a weird noise when we roll it in and out. Any suggestions for cleaning and repairing it ourselves? —Carla P.
Your RV awning helps give you shade, protection, and, on occasion, elevated stress levels from dealing with tears, cleaning, and mechanical glitches. From malfunctioning arms to mildew stains, awning upkeep can be a pain, but with a little elbow grease and the right products, you can, fortunately, take care of most of your awning needs on your own.
While a quick online search will supply you with a plethora of awning cleaning remedies and product suggestions, there are a few things you should keep in mind before you dive down the internet’s RV awning rabbit hole.
Sweep and clean. First, always sweep off branches, leaves, and other loose items that fall on your awning. Then, instead of attempting to scrub a year’s worth of mildew stains and dirt, you should regularly give your awning a good cleaning to get rid of grime before it sets in. Many RVers swear by vinegar, soap, water, and other home-remedy mixtures, but there are also several products designed specifically for your awning. Camco offers a lineup of cleaning products that are RV-safe, so you don’t have to concoct your own cleaner. It’s also easier to keep ready-made products in your rig for use on the go.
DIY fabric repair. Minor wear, tears, and holes can be fixed without costing a fortune. If you catch rips early, you can avoid replacing your awning fabric. RV awning tapes can be used to patch small areas. They’re typically clear in color so you won’t have unsightly tape stretched across your fabric. Always be sure to use tape that’s weatherproof and can handle the elements, or you’ll find yourself constantly replacing tape patches.
Everything You Need to Know About Maintaining the Exterior of Your RV
Fabric replacement. If your awning has ripped beyond a good tape repair, don’t fret. While it might seem like a major undertaking to replace your entire awning, it’s really just a two-person job that can be accomplished in an afternoon. As long as you know the measurements of your awning, you can order universal-fitting fabrics that will work for your RV, no matter the original awning brand.
Arm repair. If your awning’s arms or arm components (motor, batteries, touchpad) malfunction, you’re more than likely going to need replacement parts. While replacing a motor might sound more complicated than patching a tear, this can still be a DIY project. There are several matching and universal replacement parts that allow you to fix your awning at home. You can even use this as an opportunity to upgrade your rig. Have a manual awning? Maybe it’s time to add a powered awning system to your RV. Whatever you do, before you call up a service tech or repair shop, do your homework and know that this can be an inexpensive, DIY project—if you want it to be.
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